Head-mounted displays, also known as HMDs, are not new. The first commercial ones were available as far back as the 1990s, with products such as the Forte VFX-1 and Sony Glasstron for gaming and video entertainment. However, Google Glass received great attention, obviously because of its developer: tech behemoth Google.
Manufactured by Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, Google Glass is designed as a wearable computer in the form of a pair of glasses. This device is classified as optical head-mounted display, also known as OHMD or smart glasses. With OHMD, Google Glass users would be able to reflect projected images, in addition to looking through it like a traditional pair of glasses. The term “smart glasses” is inspired by the HMD to function as a smartphone-like hands-free device.
Based on the Android operating system (4.0.4 or higher) and using a 1.2GHz Texas Instruments processor, Google Glass has a touchpad located at the side of the device. Using the touchpad, the user can slide the timeline-like interface on the 640-by-360-pixel display backward to reveal current events, such as weather. Sliding the interface forward reveals past events, which include pictures and phone calls.
In addition to the touchpad, Google Glass users can control the device using voice activation. This feature can be activated by tilting the head upward, or tapping the touchpad and say, “O.K., Glass.”
In addition to taking pictures, the 5-megapixel camera on Google Glass can record video at 720p mode. The HMD offers 16GB of storage, with 12GB of it available; it also comes with 682MB of RAM. For its wireless capability, Google Glass has Bluetooth technology and adheres to Wi-Fi 802.11b/g protocol. Other technical specifications include a three-axis gyroscope; three-axis accelerometer; three-axis compass; ambient light-sensing and proximity sensor; and bone conduction transducer, which relays voice commands.
Google Glass comes with the standard Google applications, which include Gmail for email access, the Google Now personal assistant, Google Maps for navigation and the Google+ social networking platform. Also, Google provides MyGlass, a companion Android app that enables management and configuration of the HMD.
Additionally, users can expect to use third-party apps on Google Glass. They include the Evernote notetaking software; Skitch, which is a screenshot editing and sharing utility; and Path, which enables sharing photos and messages at social networking sites that include Facebook. Users can also read publications like “The New York Times” using their mobile apps.
As of 2013, reviews of Google Glass have been generally positive. “Time” Magazine recognized the product in its “Best Inventions of the Year 2012” list for its November 2012 issue. There have been concerns, however, about its possible intrusion of privacy and safety to the wearer’s vision. Although the Explorer Edition of Google Glass is currently available to testers and Google Developers for $1,500, the less expensive, consumer edition will not be available until 2014.